Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Character win where Baillie and Lind shine

Kole Lind - Southwest Booster
  • A character test for the Kelowna Rockets last night. The end result? More than just a passing grade for the defending WHL champions. Playing without four significant forwards, the Rockets dug out of a two goal deficit and earned a 6-3 win over the Swift Current Broncos. It wasn't necessarily a bad start for the Rockets, but a bad bounce that saw a puck go off a defenceman's skate and the Broncos had a quick 1-0 lead. The game wasn't even four minutes old. But instead of saying, 'here we go again', the Rockets scored the next five goals on their way to their 24th win of the season. Tyson Baillie ended the night with three goals while Kole Lind, essentially playing in his own backyard, had a goal and an assist and was named the first star.
  • More on Lind in a moment. Tyson Baillie's three goal effort against the Broncos was the first hat-trick the 20 year-old has recorded in his career. It took the point producer 291 games to finally accomplish the feat. It is hard to believe it took Baillie that long considering the 266 points he put up prior to Tuesday's three goal effort. Sure, two of Baillie's three goals weren't exactly terrific, with one going in off a defender and another one into an empty net, but his power play one timer in the second period was a goal scorers goal.
  • If you walked anywhere around the Credit Union I-Plex Tuesday night, you either ran into someone wearing a Kelowna Rockets sweater or someone wearing #16 with 'Lind' on the back. Kole Lind had a massive cheering section on hand for the game and the rookie forward delivered. Lind's lone goal came on a great individual effort to tie the score at two. It should be good enough to make the WHL plays of the week. In fact, I can guarantee it will. It was that good. Lind skated up ice with the puck from in front of his own net, made a nice move around a Broncos defenceman, cut towards the net on the forehand before tucking it past goaltender Landon Bow. 
  • A nice touch to see Lind's grandpa come up to the broadcast booth and shake my hand before the game.
  • Despite battling illness, I thought Lucas Johansen was the Rockets best defender. Johansen makes excellent reads with the puck and did a great job of escaping danger when a Broncos forward tried to paste him into the corner boards with a solid hit. Johansen plays a smooth, calm game and was a really bright spot for a d-core that paid the price by blocking shots and playing with more snarl in their game.
  • Of the nine goals scored in the game, no less than six were either bad bounce goals or empty netters. Baillie and Riley Stadel each had fortunate bounces go in while the Broncos had two of three goals either go off a Rockets defenceman's skate or shin pad.  
  • You can see why Broncos 20 year-old Jon Martin has 26 goals. Martin works hard, isn't scared to throw his big frame around and loves to shoot the puck. Receiving the third star, I agreed with his selection as the hardest Broncos forward to play against shift after shift.
  • I thought Boston Bruins first round pick Jake DeBrusk had a very quiet game. I honestly expected more. With the Broncos trailing by two goals, head coach Mark Lamb put DeBrusk with Jon Martin and it seemed to make DeBrusk more lethal in the offensive zone. The 19 year-old, who is the centre of trade rumours and will most likely be dealt at the trade deadline, was a pleasure to speak with before the game. You can tell he has a pro mentality about him. Pencilled with the right line-mates, DeBrusk's 42 goals from last season are no fluke.    
  • A small Tuesday crowd at the Credit Union I-Plex. Just 17 hundred 68 fans took in the game which is below the season average of 1938.
  • Up next is a date with the Moose Jaw Warriors. This indeed will be a match-up of the top two scoring 20 year-old's in the WHL. Tyson Baillie leads the league in scoring with 54 points, nine more than Moose Jaw's Dryden Hunt. 

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